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Sorry Ireland, what's done is done

Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Four years is a long period of time, but for players like Shay Given, Robbie Keane and the rest of Ireland's national soccer team, it may as well be 40 years.

The World Cup is special because it only comes along every four years, making it an excruciating experience for teams that miss out on qualification.

So you can imagine how the Irish players felt on Wednesday evening when they watched France's Thierry Henry clearly bring down a ball with his hand inside the penalty area and play it to William Gallas for the winning goal in extra time of the second leg of the UEFA World Cup qualification playoff series.

Ireland midfielder Damien Duff was seen sobbing uncontrollably at the end of the match, and you can bet he was not the only one in green and white that was shedding tears.

The Irish failed to qualify for the last World Cup in 2006, but they were in position to return to the big stage after outplaying France for much of the second leg.

Players like Shay Given may not have
another chance to play in a World Cup.
However, Henry's handball led to France taking the lead against the run of play, and Ireland wasn't able to recover.

After the match, Henry openly admitted the fact that he handled the ball, but that it's up to the referee to make the call.

The most difficult thing about the situation is that it could mean players like Given and defender Richard Dunne may not have another chance to play in a World Cup.

Both players will be in their mid-30's by the time the 2014 World Cup rolls around, and it has left Given to wonder if this will be his last chance.

"It could be the last time, it could be," said Given. "I don't know what's around the corner, I don't know if I will make another one, and that makes it even more heartbreaking.

"I have only played in one [World Cup] and here we were the better team and deserved to go to the World Cup. But we are not going, so it is hard to take."

The Football Association of Ireland [FAI] appealed to FIFA to replay the match, citing a 2005 decision by FIFA to replay a World Cup qualifier between Uzbekistan and Bahrain.

However, their appeal was denied because in that instance, an Uzbekistan player entered the Bahrain defensive area while a penalty was being taken by one of his teammates. Instead of allowing the kick to be re-taken, the referee incorrectly awarded Bahrain a free kick.

The difference is that in the Uzbekistan/Bahrain match, there was "a technical error by the referee of the match." While the referee of the France/Ireland contest just simply missed the call.

Allowing the game to be replayed would be wrong. How would you tell English soccer fans that this instance is any different from the one in the 1986 World Cup when Diego Maradona scored the infamous "Hand of God" goal, allowing Argentina to beat England in the quarterfinals, 2-1?

A replay would set a bad precedent in this instance because it would open the door for other teams to lodge appeals if they felt there was a bad decision by the referee during the match, which if you happen to listen to post-match interviews with managers, happens almost every game.

It's hard not to feel badly for Ireland, but bad calls have been a part of sports for as long as they have existed.



Comments? Criticism? Applause?
Contact Tim Keeble at tkeeble@sportsnetwork.com
Contact Brian Westfall at bwestfall@sportsnetwork.com

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